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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Only Way is Up

Over the past few years I have been heavily involved in building two 'N' gauge layouts, each about 6 feet x 3 feet. The first one was made in a spare bedroom but, could not stay there indefinitely. After completion it was stored rather inconveniently in my '00' gauge Railway Room where it could not be operated easily. The second, which is still a work in progress, has been built over the summer in the garage. I don't want to keep it there all the time as it is a conventional garage that is uninsulated, experiencing extremes of temperature across the seasons.

One of the N gauge layouts is a scale model of Cliddesden Station on the Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway. The real station building is nothing more than a large corrugated 'shed'. Our first idea was to build a smaller version of it in the garden to house the N gauge layouts. It is an interesting idea to build a railway room that looks like a station building of the line. The garden is big enough to hold it but of the available plots the best place for it is in full view from the lounge window, which did not go down to well with the domestic authority and besides, construction of a bespoke shed could be quite a lengthy project in itself.

The existing Railway Room is one side of a double garage that has been boarded up and insulated. The next thought was to extend it into the other side. Yet more heavy work and destroys any hope of using it for the purpose it was built - a car.

Was there any chance of reorganising the Railway Room? The existing 00 gauge layout sits at a height of about 38 inches supported on multiple pairs of legs. What if the height was raised and legs eliminated? This would offer a massive open space beneath for the N gauge layouts. Well, that is what was done.

The 00 gauge layout was raised to a height of about 50 inches. This was chosen as optimum for a 6 foot person to still have a good view standing up or sat on a bar stool and be able to reach the far side of the layout with ease. Shorter adults over 5 feet also get a good view.

To eliminate the support legs an open frame was constructed that screwed to three walls. The middle of the fourth side is supported by timber suspended from a ceiling joist. The layout sits on top of the frame. I have to say this is a great working height as everything is brought closer to eye level and the bridging board that spans the access point does not need to lift as only a small stoop under is needed to enter.

The two N gauge layouts are portable layouts for exhibition. In the Railway Room they simply rest on wheeled trolleys set to a height of 33 inches. This allows them to be moved easily if access to the rear side is required. A sitting position on a standard chair is adopted when operating the layouts. One of the layouts is mostly uncovered, lit from the same ceiling light that illuminates the 00 gauge layout. The other, which is directly beneath the 00 gauge layout, is lit from an LED batten fixed to the 00 gauge support frame.

The view in the photo may appear a little confusing because the background to the 00 gauge station (top left) is a mirrored wall to reflect layout features not normally seen from this side. The single drop down frame support from the ceiling is painted blue to try and disguise it (unsuccessfully).

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